Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Clinic with Boyd Martin

not sure why there is a huge blue line....
On October 8th and 9th, we were privileged to welcome Olympic rider and four star competitor Boyd Martin back to White North Stable and South Farm for our fourth consecutive year.  I have been lucky enough to have known Boyd and Silva for five years now, and while I constantly wish we could train with them on a more consistent basis, the clinics they do are a wonderful refreshment to our training system and in getting us to raise our bar higher!

Monday at White North was all about the finer points of stadium jumping, focusing on riding out of a rhythm, and maintaining adjustability and balance at all times.  We started with an excellent turning exercise with two verticals set next to each other on diagonals, and proceeded to a related distance in which you had to be able to get 5,6,and 7 strides depending on your canter.  We then had a treble and did some course work, again focusing on ridability through out.  The treat of the day was watching Cori Garcia, Kelly Sult, and our own Kate Shaughnessy jump around the 4' and 4'3 in preparation for Cori and Kelly to compete at Fair Hill International, and Kate to develop a greater partnership with her new jumper Ciro.

Tuesday at South Farm took us to cross country where Boyd focused on proper galloping position, rhythm, and accuracy.  (And for me, proper connection with my new mount!) It was a beautiful day and Sarah and Chris had mowed and set up several areas that were perfect for catching multiple jumps where auditors could watch and listen.  I had so much fun watching everyone as they progressed through their lessons...several of my students on new horses that we have bought together, and seeing them excel through the sessions.   On a personal level I was able to have an excellent lesson on Captain, where I conquered my fear of Weldon's walls, and also dropped our little five year old boy off the Prelim water.  I was thrilled that Boyd liked him so much, and he definitely got me thinking on the fast track, reminding me that the fastest way to progress is to be detailed and correct in our training of this youngster. 

On Monday night we hosted our first dinner at Sara's Place to benefit the American Horse Trial Foundation which helps riders like Boyd fund raise to compete at the top level.  While we didn't raise as much money as I had hoped, we did have a great time, and Boyd gave a wonderful talk about his career up to the Olympics, followed by some candid questions by the audience.  It was excellent to have such a diverse group of attendees, and I personally would like to thank all who came, as well as Sara Welsh, Mandy Williams, and Jami Lieberman for helping me with last minute details. 

Big thanks also to Sarah Cherry for providing Boyd's accommodation, as well as our entire team (Liz, Mandy, Jami, and the guys) who worked to prepare the farm and helped keep things organized and flowing throughout the clinic.

We hosted the most people from out of town that we ever have, and had the biggest number of auditors to date. It is such a special experience to have the opportunity to host someone of Boyd's caliber, and I cannot thank him enough for making time in his busy schedule to come to Ohio and share his expertise with us.  There are countless things to be learned in clinics and lessons with Boyd, as well as his straightforward perspective on making one's way through the equestrian industry.  We can learn so much just by watching and listening; being immersed in that level of instruction even for just two days is priceless.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dressage at Devon

Buenos Noches owned by Angela Hambrick
October has been a marathon of fun events and competitions, and I decided the best thing to do would be to separate posts about each event.  So, grab a coffee, and enjoy the read!

Dressage at Devon was the first leg of our fantastic close to the show season, and I have to say it more than lived up to the hype!  I was so honored and humbled (but mostly freaked out!) to be in the warm up surrounded by people like Silva Martin, Cesar Parra, Lars Petersen, the Barteau's, Jackie Brooks, David Marcus, George Williams...the list goes on and on.  It was more than surreal, and also difficult to stay focused when half the people around you are riding legends.  Luckily, I had an outstanding support team with coach Charlotte Bayley-Schindelholz, groom Mary McKeon, and two fabulous owners, Marian Shaughnessy and Angela Hambrick to tell me stories that made me laugh, and keep the atmosphere from playing with my head. 

Goodman, aka Buenos Noches, kicked off our week under the lights in a fourth level test of choice in which he placed fifth out of eight!  It was so amazing to ride this spooky horse in the dark with shadows everywhere, and have him just do the job!  I was so thrilled with this little horse's performances...each day he was better and better, and stayed very confident (something we have worked very hard to achieve) in the ring.  We rode our best test on Sunday, and finished all the other days in the middle of a very competitive field of amazing horses.  We changed a couple things in the way we "bring him to the ring" and Charlotte got me viewing this horse from a different perspective, and it paid off.   I always think of this sweet horse as the little prince, but he came to the party in a big way, and told us that he is ready to be a grown up like all the other fancy horses.  Training him more like a "hot" horse, instead of a spooky distracted one, gave him a greater degree of fitness, and focus. I was so proud of how far he has come I thought my heart would explode, and I couldn't wait to call Angela each day and tell her what a superstar he was being.   I also saw how much more accurate and detailed I need to be in the tests holding my lines, and really developing movements ahead of time.  Watching so many riders be artists of this was hugely beneficial for me in recognizing where I need to take my own level of riding to be more competitive in the international classes.

Tsjesse and I competed in our first CDI (both his and mine), and it was such a fabulous learning experience, that I am still sorting out all the valuable information.  We did the jog on Thursday, and had fun getting all shiny and dressed up~a big thank you to my sister Mary who helped me find a great ensemble, and topped it off with a super cute hat that made the outfit!  Friday we competed in the Prix St. George and entered the Dixon Oval for the first time.  Tsjesse is usually a cool character, who comes to life in the ring like a peacock fluffing his feathers, but in this case, as soon as we entered the arena, I felt the breath get sucked out of him, and he was set back on his heels.  I have never had the occasion to have this particular horse feel nervous or actually scared which took me by complete surprise, and left me with a lot of riding to do in the ring.  We were able to get through the test, but had many mistakes, and a horse that never quite settled, even to the last halt where I could barely make him stand still.  It was very hard for me to understand that my stalwart partner had a case of nerves for the first time ever.  Its almost funny because this amazing horse has given ME the confidence to ride in the FEI, and been there for me when I have not been my best and greener than grass, and for the first time EVER he needed me.  I felt bad because I was unprepared for this to happen, and left the arena with a million things buzzing in my head.  Charlotte, ever the eloquent coach, smiled and said, "Well, he IS a horse."  She said alot of other things that helped hit home, but that one really made me stop and think.  We changed our preparation the next day for the I1, and I felt like I took a bit of a risk riding him early in the morning to school in the Dixon because after all he is a Friesian, and there is only so much in the tank.  It was definitely the right decision though, and this time when we went down the center line, I was ready.  I knew I had to "be there" for him, and I really felt that this time I executed with precision, letting him know I was right there with him every step of the way.  While we still had mistakes due to tension, we came out of the ring wiser and with a new found level in our partnership.   The best part though was even with the mistakes, he got three rounds of applause, making for a very special experience for Marian to see how much people appreciate her and her beautiful boy.

Thank you to everyone who made this amazing experience possible...owners, coaches, family (especially Mom and Dad who bought me a fabulous new short coat for early Xmas), coworkers, friends, and supporters.  Also, special thanks to Katie Gussenhoffen and  County Saddlery for sponsoring me and outfitting our saddles to keep the horses comfy. 

Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to the horses, for trying their best, sharing their special gifts, and teaching me something beautiful everyday.   

And to the Dixon Oval...we salute you, and will see you next year!
Tsjesse fan it Beielan owned by Marian Shaughnessy